Friday, April 29, 2011

Stutsman Announces in House 77

Stutsman Announces in House 77

It was hinted last week, now official:
Johnson County Supervisor Sally Stutsman has announced plans to run for the Iowa House in an open district in the western part of the county.

The 2011 redistricting process created a new district, House 77, that includes the area where Stutsman has lived since 1969.
As strong a candidate as Democrats could hope for, in a district with a 2500 voter Democratic registration edge.

The district is entirely in Johnson, our fourth complete district. It's anchored by North Liberty and Tiffin, which grew so big they had to be pulled out of Dave Jacoby's Coralville district. It's also got Swisher, Shueyville, Oxford, Tiffin, Frytown, and Lone Tree, but wraps around the city of Hills. Most of those were pulled out of Nate Willems and Jarad Klein's seats, that used to go into Johnson but no longer do. One township comes out of Jeff Kaufmann's district.

Last year Stutsman was the first supervisor to be elected to a fifth term since terms went to four years in the 1970s. She tried for the House once before, in a much tougher district that went into Louisa and Muscatine, in 2000. (She did way better than the Some Dude who ran four years earlier.)

District of the Day: Senate District 5, House District 9 and 10

District of the Day: Senate District 5, House District 9 and 10

Senate District 5

Registration: D 12,744, R 12,705, N 15,365, total 40,846, D+ 39
Incumbent: Daryl Beall, D-Ft. Dodge

Beall won a third term last year in old district 25 with 54%. Beall loses about 900 Democrats and gets a dead-even district that votes on the lower turnout gubernatorial cycle. The new seat keeps Ft. Dodge and Calhoun County but loses Greene County to the south and instead goes go north into Pocahontas and Humboldt. Beall has till 2014 to get to know those new constituents.

The Senate district is polarized between a Democratic half and an equally GOP part.

House District 9

Registration: D 7625, R 5253, N 6484, total 19378, D+ 2372
Incumbent: Helen Miller, D-Ft. Dodge

Update September 11: Alcazar running again.

Very little change for Miller in the district she's held since 2002. She keeps her entire old district and adds three townships to maintain roughly the same Democratic edge. This is one of those ones where the district lines practically draw themselves. An ideal House district size is 30,538, and the Ft. Dodge census population is 25,206.

Miller won with a surprisingly close 52% last time against Matt Alcazar, a tea partier opponent who had started out running as an independent. Speaking of tea partiers who started out running as independents...

House District 10

Registration: D 5119, R 7452, N 8881, total 21468, R+ 2333
Incumbents: Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, and Dave Tjepkes, R-Gowrie January 10: Tjepkes retires.

Tom Shaw, who first announced his 2010 run as an independent, won an epic primary and then took over with ease in the general as conservaDem Dolores Mertz retired. Shaw, age 49, has taken the hard-right approach along with fellow freshmen Glen Massie and Kim Pearson: uber-purist on abortion, joining the late session Supreme Court impeachment effort. He keeps his native Pocahontas County and Humboldt, but loses the city of Algona and southern Kossuth.

Tjepkes, age 67, hails from Gowrie in rural Webster County. He first won old district 50 in the last year lines were redone, 2002. He keeps Calhoun County but loses all of Greene County, which instead goes with Boone County into freshman Republican Chip Baltimore's seat. Tjepkes was was a 64% winner in 2008 and unopposed in 2010.

Tjepkes took the opposite approach to Shaw on marriage equality, as one of four House Republicans who did not co-sponsor the constitutional amendment (though he, along with all Republicans and sadly three Democrats, ended up voting for it). This had some folks talking primary challenge even before the map came out.

The two paired incumbents are from opposite corners of the district. The new seat is more Republican than either of the old seats. With the Senate seat on the odd cycle, a run at Beall is only an option if one of the two House members stands down for two years. Tjepkes could go east into new 48, where technically Democrat Lisa Heddens lives (but she's expected to go with most of her voters in the open 46 in Ames), but there's very little overlap with the old Tjepkes turf and it's a swing seat.

Shaw could go north a couple miles into the open district 2, but there's no overlap at all with his old turf and, while it's a good GOP district, the new one he's in is better. Shaw didn't back down from a contested primary last time, and the tea party favorite beat Stephen Richards, the main-chance doctor who had fallen only 42 votes short of Mertz in 2008.

On Map Day, Tjepkes said he was inclined to run, while Shaw declined comment. desmoinesdem bets on party establishment support leading to a Tjepkes primary win, but in a GOP primary my money is always on the crazy.

New Map | New Map (Insets) | Old Map

Thursday, April 28, 2011

District of the Day: Senate District 4, House District 7 and 8

District of the Day: Senate District 4, House District 7 and 8

Senate District 4

Registration: D 11,890, R 14,602, N 15,880, total 42,381, R+ 2712
No Incumbent

Five whole counties- Emmett, Kossuth, Winnebago, Hancock and Wright-with no senators. This turf was split between Jack Kibbie, Merlin Bartz, and Rob Bacon in the old map. No one county dominates geographically as all are of similar size, between 10,000 and 16,000 population in a 61,000 body district. That's a lot of parades.

Last year Bacon knocked off Democrat Rich Olive, who won in 2006 when Stew Iverson quit his re-elect race after being deposed as Senate Republican leader. Iverson, of course, made a comeback last year when he defeated Six Pack Democrat McKinley Bailey in a Wright-Hamilton district.

Iverson is part of the triple-up in House 8 (see below) which is partially resolved by his likely run in this seat. There's not a lot of overlap between new senate 4 and the old Senate 5 that he held. Wright is the south end of the new seat that borders Minnesota. The old one went south from Wright instead, through Hamilton, wrapped around Ames to take in most of geographic Story, and ended way down at the Polk County line. The old seat was a few hundred voters more Republican, but Olive still managed to squeak through by 61 votes in a Democratic landslide year.

House District 7

Registration: D 6526, R 6405, N 8514, total 21,450, D+ 121
Incumbent: John Wittneben, D-Estherville

Day Four and finally our first House Democrat. Wittneben was one of the D's few bright spots in 2010, holding an open lean-Democratic district by just 32 votes when Marcy Frevert retired. But the new district loses 1200 Democrats to become a swing seat. Wittneben loses the Frevert base of Palo Alto but keeps his own Emmet County base and rural north Kossuth. But significantly, he adds the city of Algona.

House District 8

Registration: D 5364, R 8197, N 7366, total 20931, R+ 2833

Incumbents: Linda Upmeyer, R-Garner, Stew Iverson, R-Clarion, and Henry Rayhons, R-Garner

UPDATE July 14: Upmeyer officially announces move to House 54.

UPDATE August 10: Rayhons staying and running.

For a few hours on March 31, it looked like this was the seat that could have scuttled the whole plan. With Upmeyer and Rayhons both carrying Garner addresses, it would have been hard for the map geeks to keep them apart; Iverson was just one more wrench in the works.

Early reports were that Upmeyer would be the one who stayed, but now it seems she's looking at open House 54 to the north. Rayhons is 75 and was pegged as a retirement, but if Upmeyer does move he could stick around. Iowa Politics offered a good summary on April 20:

Upmeyer has said she might move from her longtime farm in Garner to a condominium in the Clear Lake area. But if she doesn’t, Rayhons said he’ll retire instead of running against his fellow Republican.

“It’s going to all depend on what Representative Upmeyer does,” Rayhons told “I would guess that I would probably run for that House seat if Representative Upmeyer decides to move. However, I will not interject if Representative Upmeyer stays where she is and wants the seat. I would quit the Legislature, probably.”

As for Iverson, speculation is that he might run for a state Senate seat that’s vacant due to redistricting. Iverson is a former Senate majority leader. However, he said Tuesday that he hadn’t made up his mind on his political future.

“I have absolutely made no decisions yet,” Iverson said. “The House district looks pretty good. The Senate district looks pretty good. There happens to be three Republicans in the House district. Representative Upmeyer, Representative Rayhons and I have not sat down. We have not talked about anything. I have to tell you, I’ve made no decisions yet whatsoever, and I probably won’t make a decision until next fall.”

However, Iverson is sure about one thing.

“I am not moving,” he said.
If Upmeyer stays she gets a slightly more Republican district. She'd lose Winnebago and Worth to the north and east. This seat instead goes south to Iverson's Wright County base and gets southern and western Kossuth, but not the city of Algona.

Rayhon's old turf went to the east in Franklin and picked up the Clear Lake part of Cerro Gordo, which is specifically where Upmeyer is taking about moving. Open House 54 could also have been the escape route for Annette Sweeney, who drew the short straw in the pair with Pat Grassley. But it's starting to look like she drew the short straw here, too.

New Map | New Map (Insets) | Old Map

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Democrat Johnson announces in House 73

Democrat Johnson announces in House 73

Other names are in the rumor mill, but the first Democratic candidate has officially announced in House District 73.

The West Branch Times reports that West Branch city council member David Johnson is seeking the Democratic nomination to face Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton.

Johnson said he plans to run on “a conglomeration of issues ranging from the lack of funding for our institutions of higher education as well as K-12 and preschool, the need for tax increment finance reform, reform in the regulation of our utilities, corporate income tax reform as well as eliminating corporate welfare at all levels.”

The Cedar County based House District 73 (numbered 79 in the old map) changes significantly. It loses most of northern Muscatine County, except for the city of Wilton. It also takes in a much larger part of eastern Johnson County, including the city of Solon.

The changes give the new district a Democratic voter registration edge of 800. Kaufmann's old district was almost exactly evenly split between the parties. Johnson toldthe West Branch paper:
“Jeff will be a formidable candidate, even with the redistricting,” Johnson said. “But I believe that by starting my ground campaign this summer, I will be able to have sufficient one-on-one contact with my constituents to give the voters a sense of who I am, and what I intend to do. Constituents need to have a real connection and accessibility to their representatives. I intend to give them that. There is no doubt that a lot of voters see Jeff as having a pleasant personality, so the task for me will be to run against his record.”
If he's elected it could be confusing: there's already a David Johnson in the Legislature, Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan (who was featured in our first District Of The Day).

Update: Blog for Iowa's Paul Deaton (who lives in the district) notes: "Two others are mulling a run in HD73. Informal Meetup of HD 73 Dems Thursday April 28 7PM Agave Restaurant West Branch all Democrats welcome."

Florida: "We Want To Be Fifth"

Florida: "We Want To Be Fifth"

Officially, the 2012 Iowa caucuses are still scheduled for Monday. February 6.

Unofficially, no one actually believes this, as the quadrennial game of date leapfrog is well underway, with Florida Republicans leading the charge.

In a rare bit of bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans are in agreement on the nomination calendar. Both parties have the same four early states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carlina and Nevada. Both parties have the same calendar: early states in February. other states starting in March. That said, Florida Republicans are making a stand:
Though the national party is pressuring Florida to delay its primary until next April, Republican Party of Florida chairman Dave Bitner made it clear Florida has no intention of moving back to the pack and sharing its primary date with other states again.

For decades, Florida voted in mid-March or April, long after the GOP nominees had been decided in smaller states' primaries. Now, Bitner said Florida deserves a bigger role because of its status as a key swing state in the general election.

"We want to go fifth," Bitner told more than 100 Republicans at a fundraiser Thursday night. "We don't care about being first, second, third or fourth. Let those other states that have had that have it. We just want to be fifth."
Whole article a must read for any caucus junkie.

In order to facilitate We Want To Go Fifth, "the Florida House passed an elections reform package that includes a 10-member commission that would wait until Oct. 1 to select a primary date for Florida between the first Tuesday in January and the first Tuesday in March." That would probably set up a ripple effect, pushing South Carolina and Nevada earlier, and thus pushing New Hampshire and Iowa earlier.

Republicans control both legislative houses and the governorship in Florida, so Democrats will get dragged along. But Florida Republicans need to be careful - they've already been given the plum of the GOP national convention, in Tampa. Party chair Reince Priebus says the convention won't be moved, but my guess is there will be some serious negotiating going on.

Anyone ready to caucus January 9? How about January 2?

District of the Day: Senate District 3, House District 5 and 6

District of the Day: Senate District 3, House District 5 and 6

The last time a Democrat was seen in Le Mars: Senator Obama gets some Blue Bunny.

Senate District 3

Registration: D 9848, R 15,607, N 13,790, total 39,274, R+ 5759
Incumbent: Bill Anderson, R-Pierson

It's a common theme in legislative politics: people who lose leadership fights tend to retire soon after. Sioux City Republican Ron Weick was Senate minority leader for one session in 2008, but got overthrown soon after the election by Paul McKinley.

Adding to the indignity, when Weick retired in 2010, his chosen successor was pushed out of the race by ex-King/Grassley staffer Bill Anderson, who went on to a relatively easy general election win in old district 27.

The old seat included the southern end of Sioux City and Sergeant Bluff as half the district, then went northeast to Cherokee County (the old Dan Huseman house seat). Anderson's new seat keeps south Sioux City, but then wraps around the rest of the city to pick up most of Plymouth County. As a result the seat gets a little more Republican. Anderson holds over till 2014.

House District 5

Registration: D 4426, R 8975, N 7421, total 20837, R+ 4549
Incumbent: Chuck Soderberg, R-Le Mars

Soderberg, 53, first went to the house in 2004 from old district 3 when Ralph Klemme retired, with a solid primary win and no general election opponent. Soderberg got a 2008 challenge by self-starter Democrat T.J. Templeton, who wasted a little on-line money and lost by more than three to one. No one bothered in 2010.

Soderberg (seen yesterday floor-managing the nuclear power plant bill) loses southern Sioux County, and Orange City, to Dwayne Alons, and instead gets rural parts of north and west Woodbury. He loses more than 2000 Republicans as a result, but the seat is still solid red.

House District 6

Registration: D 5422, R 6632, N 6369, total 18437, R+ 1210
Incumbent: Ron Jorgensen, R-Sioux City

What was I saying about overthrown legislative leaders stepping down? After Kraig Paulsen ousted Christopher Rants as Republican House leader, Rants left, with a brief stab at a run for governor on the way out.

Our first district that's basically urban, this was the Rants seat till last year when Jorgensen took over old district 54, defeating `08 Rants opponent Carlos Venable-Ridley with relative ease. Jorgensen, 53, keeps roughly the same south chunk of Sioux City (the line moves a few blocks south in places) and gains a few rural townships and along with them a few hundred Republicans.

New Map
| New Map (Insets) | Old Map

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

District of the Day: Senate District 2, House District 3 and 4

District of the Day: Senate District 2, House District 3 and 4

Sioux County is so Republican that, had it been annexed to South Dakota in 2004, John Kerry would have won a 98 county Iowa. The only threat to Republicans up here is a primary or redistricting, and indeed the GOP has a problem with a pair in this neighborhood.

Senate District 2

Registration: D 5419, R 23,119, N 9904, total 38,450, R+ 17,700 (!)
Incumbent: Randy Feenstra, R-Hull

Sioux County dominates new District 2, the most Republican seat in the state, much as it dominated old 2. Unbelievably, old 2 was even MORE Republican. The district loses Lyon to the north and most of Plymouth (the LeMars part) to the south, and instead gets O'Brien and Cherokee to the east, plus the eastern part of Plymouth (which it didn't have before).

Old Senate District 2 was the scene of an epic primary in 2004 as relative moderate Dave Mulder knocked off the state's leading queer-baiter of the era, Ken Veenstra. Mulder stepped down after one term, semi-voluntarily (another epic primary was likely), and Feenstra moved from the county courthouse to the Senate in 2008 with no opponent in the primary OR the general.

House District 3

Registration: D 3890, R 10,102, N 6837, total 20,833, R+ 6212
Incumbents: Royd Chambers, R-Sheldon and Dan Huseman, R-Aurelia

New House 3 is basically Chambers' O'Brien County (population 14,398) and Huseman's Cherokee (12,072), with a few townships in eastern Sioux and Plymouth thrown in.

Chambers' old district 5 went north to Osceola County, picked up western Sioux, and included most of the land of Clay County (wrapping around to exclude the city of Spencer). He went unopposed the last two cycles and was one of the seven no votes on the map.

Huseman's old district 53 went south and east to the Sioux City limits and included southern and eastern Plymouth. He was held to 58% by a Democrat in 2008, but went unopposed last cycle.

This reminds me a lot of the Rick Larkin-Phil Wise pair of 2002: Two incumbents with relatively equal geographic bases, in a corner of the state which leaves little room to move, and on safe turf for the party. Both members are relatively young (Chambers 49, Huseman 58) but Huseman had a heart attack April 9 and has been away from the Capitol since.

Chambers discussed the pairing with KTIV-TV:
Representatives Royd Chambers and Dan Huseman, not only share a house in Des Moines, soon they'll also share the same district.

"It is kind of awkward being roommates and getting thrown in together, but again we wouldn't be roommate if we didn't get along with each other," said joked.

He says the topic's come up, and that neither's made a definite decision on their political future.
This won't get figured out until Huseman has recovered his health. Here's hoping that recovery will be swift and full.

House District 4

Registration: D 1529, R 13017, N 3067, total 17617, R+ 11488, which makes this the number one Republican House seat in the state.
Incumbent: Dwayne Alons, R-Hull

Alons, 64, who once argued that global warming wasn't a problem because we have air conditioning, has been focused on guns and gays this session, joining last week's last-ditch attempt at impeaching the Supreme Court, an effort immediately shot down by House GOP leadership. Yesterday, Bleeding Heartland noted:
Two experienced House Republicans joined (three freshmen) in filing the articles of impeachment: Betty De Boef (district 76) and Dwayne Alons (district 4). To some extent they are outsiders in their own caucus, among very few veteran legislators passed over for committee chairmanships when Republicans took back the Iowa House majority...

I don't see what unhappy party leaders can do to Alons. As I mentioned above, he doesn't hold a committee chairmanship leaders could take away. He isn't the brightest bulb, but he does have the guts to back hopeless causes. For example, he nominated Bob Vander Plaats for lieutenant governor at last summer's state GOP convention. Earlier this session, Alons proposed other legislation backed by only a small minority in his own caucus: he sought to reduce Iowa Supreme Court justices' pay and change the state's judicial selection process.
They like it back home: Alons won with 82% in 2008, probably the state’s biggest Democrat vs. Republican margin, and that earned him a walkover in 2010.

Old District 4 covered the northern two-thirds of Sioux and went north into Lyon County. The new seat is entirely in Sioux and adds Orange City, which used to be in Chuck Soderberg's old district 3. The exclusion of Lyon makes this seat a teeny bit less red.

New Map
| New Map (Insets) | Old Map

Monday, April 25, 2011

Barbour Out

Barbour Not Running

Cross one name off the very, very long list of Republican candidates, as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, in a bit of a surprise, announces that he is NOT running.

Barbour had made several Iowa stump stops, including a Johnson County GOP spaghetti dinner that I attended. Mybe he wasn't seeing the commitments on the ground, or maybe his statement can be taken at face value:
"A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," he said. "His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required."
In a parliamentary system, Barbour would be the kind of guy who'd be a prime minister: long service to the party in a variety of roles, from a safe bastion of the party.

I was impressed with Barbour, or at least as much as I can be with a conservative Republican. His speech focused entirely on the economy, and while I didn't agree with his assessment I noticed the lack of tangents into divisive social issues or oppositional defiance on foreign policy.

Barbour also looked like a quintessential retail politician, ready to win the caucuses one handshake and backslap at a time. I liked the guy, in the same folksy way I like Mike Huckabee more than, say, Romney or Pawlenty.

To the extent that Barbour's asterisk of support goes to anyone, it helps the other "grownups" in the race: Romney, Pawlenty, and if he runs Daniels. It's just one less way to divide that traditional Main Street Republican vote, which no longer makes up a majority in a nominating contest.

So a guy like Haley Barbour can't get any traction, but Donald Trump gets taken seriously. Does that say more about the Republican Party of 2011 or about the process in general?

Update: Todd Versteegh comments to note: "Last week Barbour underwent what was termed a 'minor' back surgery for an 'ongoing medical issue'. The timing of that surgery occuring last week and today's announcement certainly is no coincidence."

District of the Day: Senate District 1, House District 1 and 2

District of the Day: Senate District 1, House District 1 and 2

Senate District 1

Registration: D 9761, R 18,483, N 14,968, total 43,229, R + 8722
Incumbents: Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg and David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan

UPDATE April 25: First day, first district, first update. Alert reader Beth Schopis notes that Kibbie told a local forum on April 13: "I'm not going to run in 2012. Remember, you heard it here first." Thanks for the many years of service, Jack. This means no race in Senate 1 next year as Johnson will hold over.

We start with a big one: two senators of opposite parties paired. District 1 is five whole counties in the state's northwest corner: Dickinson and Clay, Lyon, Palo Alto and Osceola, in order of population. (Census trivia: Dickinson and Clay recorded EXACTLY the same population: 16,667.)

Senate President Kibbie keeps only Palo Alto from his 2000s district; he had Dickinson and Clay in the 90s. He loses Emmet and Kossuth, which go east into open District 4, and Pocahontas, Humboldt, and a sliver of Webster, which go south to Ft. Dodge's Daryl Beall.

Johnson keeps Dickinson, his home county Osceola and most of Clay (including the city of Spencer). He loses O'Brien and a sliver of Sioux to Randy Feenstra, and instead gets blood-red Lyon County, which he had in his 1990s House district.

Kibbie, at 81 the oldest legislator, has served consecutively in the Senate since 1988, and also served eight years in the House and Senate in the 1960s. He was re-elected with 71% in 2008 in old district 4 against a "Grassroots For Life Party" candidate ("Tea Party" didn't enter the nomenclature till 2009). Johnson, 60, moved over from the House in 2002 and was comfortable in old Senate District 3; 59% in 2006 and unopposed in 2010.

KICD radio offered a story with a lot of regional roundup the day the Legislature approved the map:
Kibbie (noted) "it's impossible I think for any Democrat to win that district. It is a big plus for the Republicans." He noted his pleasure with the current map and the previous one but says "I'm not satisfied whatsoever with the way the map is. It is always hard to elect a Democrat in Northwest Iowa but this makes it worse."

Senator Johnson tells KICD News "personally I don't have a problem with the plan to reconfigure the district I currently represent." He did express disappointment with O'Brien County not being included in the proposal.
The even-odd factor comes into play here. (Even-number Senate districts normally go on the ballot in presidential years; odd numbers are on the governor cycle.) Kibbie is at the end of a four year term. If he stays and runs, it would force Johnson to run two years early for a two year term. But with Kibbie himself saying it's "impossible" to win this district, that's a big ask to make of a guy who'll be 84 by Election Day 2012. Kibbie says he'll announce his plans post-session, word is he's expected to retire. That would let Johnson hold over till 2014.

House District 1

Registration: D 3936, R 11,506, N 6802, total 22,251, R+ 7570
Incumbent: Jeff Smith, R-Okoboji

Smith, 43, won an easy primary and had no opposition in the 2010 general to take over old district 6 from fellow Republican Mike May. KICD:
Smith would be included in House District 1 which would be comprised of the upper two thirds of Dickinson County, as well as Osceola County which is currently represented by Republican Royd Chambers and Lyon County which is represented by Republican Dwayne Alons.
Smith's old district 6 was basically Spirit Lake, Okoboji and Spencer. In the new map he keeps almost all of the Iowa Great Lakes population core of Dickinson and heads west to Osceola and Lyon. His old very Republican district becomes a very, VERY Republican district.

House District 2

Registration: D 5825, R 6977, N 8166, total 20,978, R+ 1152
No incumbent

This empty seat is all of Clay and Palo Alto, with the southern third of Dickinson thrown in. Much of this was Smith's. Palo Alto was in Democrat John Wittneben's old district 7.

This could be an escape route for Royd Chambers, who is paired with fellow Republican Dan Huseman in new District 3. But his no vote on the map makes me think he quits or dukes it out in a primary instead. It's an opportunity for a Spencer or Emmetsburg Republican such as 2010 candidate Lannie Miller, who lost to Wittneben on turf that leaned Democratic. And Democrats like Kibbie have won in this general area in living memory. (Indeed, if Kibbie were younger this might be a place for one of those Senate to House moves we sometimes see in map years.) Longtime rep Marcy Frevert voluntarily retired last year and saw Wittneben hang on to the seat.

Links: New Map | New Map (Insets) | Old Map

Sunday, April 24, 2011

District of the Day

"District of the Day" Series on Deeth Blog

If you can't find the story you want to read, write it yourself, I always say, and my obsessive compulsive coverage of Iowa redistricting has nonetheless left me unsatisfied. There's lots of congressional district analysis, and the occasional piece on an individual legislator, but there's no seat by seat look at the state legislative seats.

So I guess I have to write it. Tomorrow I launch the biggest, nerdiest series in the long history of the Deeth Blog: the District Of The Day.

Every weekday I'll look at one district - a Senate district, to be exact, and its two House districts, in district number order. You'll see the names, the moves, the histories, the partisan tilt, and the changes of the lines. I'll also, after each district's day in the sun, keep the pages updated till we get into filing time next March and I start obsessing about every race in that context instead.

It's a tall order but the first three weeks are in the can. Stay tuned to this Bat channel.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Swaim Not Running

Swaim Not Seeking Re-Election

Another Democratic redistricting pair is resolved as Bloomfield's Kurt Swaim announces he will not seek re-election in 2012.

The Davis County based Swaim was first elected in 2002 in old House 94, which was Davis, Appanoose and Wayne counties. In redistricting, he was paired with Curt Hanson of Fairfield in new 82.

In his newsletter, Swaim writes:
This decision is not of recent origin. I told some close friends and family members eighteen months ago that, if re-elected, the current term would, in all probability, be my last one.

I have been asked if the new redistricting had any effect on my decision. It really did not. My decision was largely decided before the maps were released. However, it is a far easier decision to make knowing that Curt Hanson, a colleague from Fairfield that I greatly respect and admire, has committed to run in the new district.
Swaim would have faced either a poor fit move to adjacent House 80 or a primary against Hanson on Hanson's turf. The new district has all of Van Buren and most of Jefferson County, including Fairfield, from Hanson's old seat, and only Davis from Swaim's.

Hanson would have had the ideological edge as well. He made friends across the state in his high-profile, high-dollar September 2009 special election win. Swaim, however, disappointed party faithful by voting with House Republicans for the anti-marriage equality amendment, while Hanson voted no along with most Democrats.

The new district leans slightly Republican, with a GOP registration edge of 326. That's almost the same as Hanson's current district.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rumors Going Public

Rumors Going Public

Items that have been buzzing in the local political community are now surfacing in public, starting with Rick Dobyns' announcement for city council. The only real question there was which seat; the doc settles on District A where Ross Wilburn is stepping down.

Back to my obsessive compulsive redistricting coverage, the Gazette's James Lynch:
The legislative map created another open district, House 77, in western Johnson County. Supervisor Sally Stutsman, a Democrat, is said to be considering a campaign there.
Lynch also notes Betty DeBoef says she won't run in a primary against Jarad Klein. Implication seems to a move, probably into empty House 80, which has a dead-even partisan split and includes Monroe County, home to the Judge family. Also covered: the Roger Thomas-Andrew Wenthe pair.

Lots of quotes but no major moves in this Waterloo Courier article.

And this one from two weeks ago just showed up in the search engines so ignore all the "if" references: Jerry Behn and Ralph Watts discussing Dallas County.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bailey Not Running

Bailey Not Running

It'll be three open seats for Iowa City Council this fall, as District C's Regeinia Bailey told supporters this week she will step down after two terms.

Bailey joins District A's Ross Wilburn and at-larger Michael Wright in not seeking re-election. The other member elected in 2007, Mayor Matt Hayek, announced yesterday he'll seek a second term.

Bailey was mayor in 2008 and 2009, through the Summer Of The Flood, which produced incriminating pictures of Bailey with George W. Bush touring the damage. She was also was the only no vote on the 21 bar ordinance.

This was a revolving door seat for a long stretch in the 1990s: Randy Larson, Bruno Pigott winning a half term in a 1993 special... Dean Thornberry beat him in `95, then Irv Pfab beat Thornberry in `99.

Bailey and Dean Shannon beat Pfab in the `03 primary, which is the only time that's happened in the three-plus decades of Iowa City's screwy convoluted district system (Insert standard rant here.) Bailey then won a solid victory over Shannon in the general and a second term unopposed in 2007.

A candidate would have to live in District C, which is basically (to oversimplify) the north side and downtown. This is the district with the best shot of getting a student through a primary, though to get elected you have to win city wide.

There have been some big ballot issues the last few years but we haven't had three open Iowa City council seats on one ballot since 1993. So this one could set the direct for the city for the better part of the decade.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mascher Makes Move

Mascher Makes Move

The legislative pair-up in Johnson County has been resolved pretty much as expected, as the Register reports Iowa City Rep. Mary Mascher will move, basically, back into her district, new House District 86.

This was the most obvious "my district, just not my house" move in the state. Fellow Democrat Dave Jacoby picked up one extra west side Iowa City precinct in his Coralville-dominated district (old 30, new 74). For the locals: Jacoby had Iowa City 7 and 8 before. He added Iowa City 9, which happened to be Mascher's precinct.

Mascher's "new" district keeps the rest of the west side and University Heights. She loses Manville Heights, the peninsula, and part of campus and downtown. She gets back a chunk of the south side that she had from her first election in 1994 through the 2001 redistricting. Mascher also has, for the first time, the city of Hills.

New House 86 is, by party registration, the third most Democratic seat in the state. (Number One is Vicki Lensing's new seat, 85, just to the north.) It also happens to be my district so I'll get to vote for Mary for the first time; my last two residences have been literally across the street from her district.

Redistricting and Moving Day

Redistricting and Moving Day

I'm in my niche; I'm staying there.

The Big News is of course the Vilsacks move to Ames. Apparantly they have closed a deal, much to Krusty's disappointment. KK was hoping the Vilsacks and Tom Latham would simply swap. He also looks, literally, at other properties for the incumbent who has everything, except a house in the right place.

On a much smaller scale, Louisa County is looking to trim from eight precincts down to five. When I ran dowm ther 15 years ago, I remember them having 13.

And the true unsung hero of Iowa Clean Redistricting: Ed Cook of the Legislative Service Agency. Other states, North Carolina in particular, are looking at our process, but could it really work without someone like this?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fallon: Boswell Will Lose

Fallon: Boswell Will Lose

As the Christie Vilsack vs. Steve King talk gets more serious, Ed Fallon weighs in on the race Vilsack probably wanted and says what nobody except he and I seem to say:
Sorry folks, but I have to speak truth to Democratic Party power and tell you that if the Democrat Establishment wants this seat to remain in the "D" column, it will lean so hard on Boswell that even this entrenched relic from a bygone political era will feel compelled to retire.

Face it: Boswell can't beat Latham. The last time Iowa had a congressional district much like the new Third, the younger, quasi-moderate Greg Ganske beat entrenched Congressman Neal Smith. It'll happen again unless Boswell steps aside or gets beat in a primary by an independent-minded Democrat with populist appeal to both rural and urban voters.

(And just in case you're wondering, I have less than zero inclination to throw my hat in that ring again.)
On the plus side for Vilsack:
Party leaders have given Vilsack their blessing to run against King, with one knowledgeable Democratic source telling POLITICO that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel told Vilsack last week during a meeting at the committee’s Capitol Hill offices that he would pledge to support her if she challenges (King).
You know who the real winners are here? Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack. In any cycle, resources are limited. The Republican's top priority is going to be protecting Latham, and the ideological party faithful will want to help their hero King. That means le$$ left over to battle Braley and Loebsack.

In the meantime, Mr. President, care to visit Ames next October?

Willems Announces for State Senate

Willems Announces for State Senate

If you have to run on mostly new turf anyway, why not step up:

Willems Announces Candidacy for State Senate

Nate Willems, an employment attorney and two-term State Representative from Lisbon, has announced his candidacy for the Iowa State Senate. Willems will run for Senate District 48, which includes Delaware and parts of Linn, Jones & Buchanan counties. The district is currently vacant due to redistricting.

“I have worked hard in the Iowa House on programs that foster job growth and improve access to quality, affordable education for Iowa families,” Willems said. “I believe that a strong, forward-looking educational system is critical to the future economic success of our kids. We must continue to improve our schools and colleges so that our workers can get the job training that today’s economy demands and so our kids can learn the skills for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Willems said he was excited by the opportunity to represent the communities that make up Senate District 48.

“It has been a tremendous privilege to serve the people of Eastern Iowa in the Iowa House and I look forward to opportunity to continue to serve them in the Iowa Senate,” Willems said. “My wife and I grew up in this new senate district and we’re raising our family here because it’s a great place to live.”

Willems and his wife, Maggie, live in Lisbon and are the parents of two daughters, Ava who is 2 and Emery, 1. Nate is an Associate at Rush & Nicholson, P.L.C. He is also active in the Lincoln Highway Lisbon Lions Club. Maggie teaches Social Studies at Mount Vernon High School and coaches high school volleyball and track. Nate and Maggie are members of First Presbyterian Church in Mount Vernon.

Willems is a 1997 graduate of Anamosa High School, a 2001 graduate of Georgetown University and a 2007 graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law.

Willems promised to campaign by talking personally with as many voters as possible across the district.

“I believe that listening is one of the best ways to learn,” said Willems. “People are welcome to call me at my home, 319-455-3014 or email me at”
Willems went to the House in `08 when Ro Foege retired. The old district (29) was half Johnson, half Linn. The new House turf (95) kept just Mt. Vernon-Lisbon and Springville, then went into north rural Linn and a tiny bit of Buchanan. The Senate seat adds House 96, which is also empty but looks a lot like Republican Lee Hein's old seat. It covers all of Delaware and most of the population of Jones (cities of Anamosa and Monticello).

Senate 48 is the most evenly split Senate district in the state with a Democratic registration edge of -- I am not making this up -- ONE voter.

Redistricting Roundup

Redistricting Roundup

No Branstad autograph on The Map over the weekend but the analyzing and planning continues...

The Register offered a numbercruncher with Senate and House stats. Check out Ankeny, which grew enough to split for the first time. GOP Rep. Kevin Koester finds himself in House 38, which has a very slim D registration edge, while empty House 37 has a GOP edge of over 2000. I'm just sayin'.

Also zinged:
Assistant Majority Leader Steve Lukan, R-New Vienna, now lives in a district with a 21-voter Republican advantage. In his new district, there are 2,326 more registered Democrats than Republicans.

"It's not going to be easy, but the numbers don't scare me," Lukan said of his re-election prospects. "I think I understand how the district performs, and I think I can win."

And according to the article and Linda Upmeyer herself: the majority leader may move out of the triple-up in House District 8: "I also very much appreciate the emails and phone calls I have been getting, asking me to move into the 'new' 54th district. It is something my family and I will continue to discuss, and something I will seriously consider." With Stew Iverson apparantly slated for open Senate 4, that would let Henry Rayhons stay on in House 8. But an Upmeyer move to 54 would close off that escape route for Annette Sweeney, now paired with Grandson Grassley.

Omaha World-Herald has a Greater Council Bluffs perspective including the Brandenburg-Hanusa pair, Nancy Boettger on her pair with (a not quoted) James Seymour, and a generally unaffected Mike Gronstal.

KTIV Sioux City mentions the Hall-Taylor pair in town, the Dan Huseman-Royd Chambers pair to the north, and the brutal prospects for Democrat Sen. Jack Kibbie, paired with the GOP's David Johnson on red turf.

Just names and lines, no quotes, in this Oskaloosa story.

The Lucas Countyan, an eclectic blogger and apparently a lonesome Dem, is happy to join The People's Republic in the 2nd CD but laments his local legislative delegation of Paul McKinley, Joel Fry and Rich Arnold.

And Paul Deaton of Blog for Iowa made it to the Dave Loebsack-Tammy Baldwin event in UHeights that I regret missing, and reports that The Map was Topic A for chitchat.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vilsack vs. King?

Vilsack vs. King?

That's been in the rumor mills, but now hits the national political sites. Rothenberg:
Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack (D) is likely to take on Cong. Steve King (R) in Iowa’s new 4th Congressional District, according to a Democratic source in the Hawkeye State. Vilsack, however, has not yet made a final decision.
Swing State Project says new 4 is winnable in a good year:
It's now a district that Obama lost by only 48-50, and even John "Who Among Us Does Not Love NASCAR?" Kerry held down 44% under these lines. In short, that's still tough terrain for a Democrat, but it's significantly more fertile than before; with King's penchant for letting his freak flag fly and a credible opponent working against him, this could be an interesting race.
But as one of my commenters noted in an earlier piece: "Think of all the ActBlue and netroots money pouring in to be used against Steve King, only to see him win yet another term with close to 60% of the vote."

My bet here is Vilsack has been offered something more tangible and winnable for the 2014 cycle as a Plan B.

Also worth mentions:

State Rep. Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines) landed in a very blue empty state senate district 18 and will make that move, opening up a very blue House seat.

The Denison Bulletin-Review talks to Senator James Seymour, who is paired with fellow GOPer Nancy Boettger. Seymour says he'll run again and the implication seems to be primary; I'm still betting he gets talked into backing off. Boettger said on Map Release Day she won't move, and lives on a family farm.

In Council Bluffs, naysaying reps Brandenburg and Hanusa argue that their votes were about the Polk-PottCo congressional map, and NOT about the two of them getting paired.

Stay tuned to this blog: I'm planning much more analysis of the new House and Senate districts in a series to be announced soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Map Passes House 91-7, Senate 48-1

Map Passes House 91-7, Senate 48-1

UPDATE: Rep. Jeff Kaufmann responds. See below.

Let's look at the naysayers, all Republicans:

The lone no in the Senate is Sandy Greiner, who inherits a much bigger chunk of the People's Republic of Johnson County. Half her district, in fact: the new open House District 77.

Another Republican who doesn't want more of Johnson is a member of House leadership, Jeff Kaufmann. He loses most of northern Muscatine County. That turns a break-even district into a Democratic leaner. (He's also in the Senate district of Muscatine's Jim Hahn, who gets screwed in a pair with Shawn Hamerlinck of the QC. Hahn said he'd vote no, but in the end didn't.)

The most informative no vote is Annette Sweeney. She got paired with Grandson Grassley, and in a Senate district that's also a Republican pair (Rob Bacon-Bill Dix). Her nay is an indicator that she's the odd one out.

First termers Mark Brandenburg and Mary Ann Hanusa of Council Bluffs got paired in new 16. New 15, in the northwest corner of the city (plus that great geopolitical quirk, Carter Lake) is empty, but it has a solid Democratic registration edge. Brandenburg ran against Mike Gronstal in 2008, so maybe that's an exit strategy for one or the other. They could also be unhappy that the deep red parts of eastern PottCo get wasted in Hubert Houser's turf instead of being a weapon to take down Gronstal.

Royd Chambers got paired with Dan Huseman in deep-red new district 3. Nearby district 2 is empty, but it's not as solidly Republican and not a natural geographic fit. My bet is this is a retirement.

Renee Schulte of Cedar Rapids won a squeaker in 2008. Her old district was fair fight turf, the new seat leans Democratic.

And one just doesn't make sense. Clel Baudler is not paired and his new district leans just a little bit less Republican than the old one. Maybe his clerk pushed the wrong button.

UPDATE: Jeff Kaufmann wrote to me this evening; since he took the time to offer his reasons for voting no I'll share them with you. I'll extend the same courtesy to others if asked. I added the link to the Gazette article he references. Rep. Kaufmann's remarks:


It would have been nice for you to ask me about my NO vote. It had nothing to do with my new House seat. My seat has always been Democratic-leaning and was actually almost 1200 plus Democrats a few years ago. In fact since it is rural Johnson County it is only about a 500 vote difference than my current district even after the 2010 election. Actually a new map could have been much worse for me in party registration (more of the heavily Democratic Iowa City proper or a loss of Wilton where I have tallied 70-80% even in heavily contested elections).

My NO vote had to do with the new Senate District and my constituents, both Democratic and Republican, wanting uniformity in their Senate District instead of a rural county attached to an urban area. My NO vote reflected the desire to have a conversation about uniformity within Senate Districts, something I have talked about for years.

The Gazette did ask me and they have a story that also discusses the partisan and utterly incorrect assessment of my vote by a press release issued by none other than the State Democratic party.

Thanks John. I do appreciate your analysis in the past but this time I wished you would have asked me about my reasons.

The amount of time and hours of constituent work I do in Johnson County every week, I think, is a testament that I am proud of my Johnson County connection and will continue to be proud. Remember I lived in Iowa City for over 2 years and have three degrees from the University. Frankly, I am happy I still represent parts of the county.

Jeff Kaufmann

Redistricting and Iowa Senate Terms

Redistricting and Iowa Senate Terms

Now that our redistricting map is a near-certainty, it's time to ponder one of the few glitches in our clean, clean system: the fate of mid-term senators.

First thing to understand is: Even numbered seats run in the presidential cycle; odd seats are up in the gubernatorial year. I repeat myself for clarity below, but keep this factoid in mind as you read.

My guess, based just on the way it shook out, is that the district numbering is probably the very last thing the Legislative Service Agency does and is probably NOT blind to incumbent addresses. Of the seven now-empty new Senate seats, six are even numbers and only one is odd, which doesn't seem quite random. There also aren't any sorry-them's-the-breaks races where someone who got elected last fall just happened to draw an even number and has to run early for no other reason than the even-odd rule. (It's the lines themselves that are the sorry-them's-the-breaks factor.)

Normal Senate terms are all four years, so everyone who got elected in 2008 has to run again no matter what the district number. But the people who got elected in 2010 for four year terms find themselves in different districts mid-term. Since they were elected to a four year term in 2010, senators elected from old odd districts can just hold over, unless there's two (or in theory more, though there's no three senator seats this time) incumbents in a district. In that case they face off, with the winner getting two years.

Thus, one change I'd make in Iowa's process: I'd make all 25 of the Senate terms in the zero year two years. Then, in the new-map election year ending in 2 I'd elect the whole Senate, half for two years and half for four. Just seems more fair. Every Senate seat would get two four year terms in a decade, with a two year term at the beginning or end of a decade.

A couple states do it like that; a couple others elect the whole Senate to four year terms one cycle, then no senators the opposite cycle. And with its wacky "nonpartisan" unicameral Senate, the less said about Nebraska the better.

But let's deal with what Iowa actually does. At the end of the redistricting bill is the same language we saw ten years ago. Each senator declares an address by February 1, 2012. If there are two senators in an odd district, one of them has to retire by February 15, or else it goes on the ballot for a two year term. (Again, the even number presidential cycle seats are up anyway.)

So who can move where? The code language is a bit convoluted for a layman, but basically if you want to hold over there has to be some old-new turf overlap and you can only move within the old district. So, to pick an example, Matt McCoy can't move from Des Moines to Clinton and just stay in office with no election.

There's no way to figure it all out without help from Deep Blue the chess supercomputer, but between me and redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering we've found some sales leads for the Iowa Association of Realtors.

The most likely two-incumbent, two-year, two-party matchup is in new Senate District 1, where veteran Democrat Jack Kibbie, of old district 4 and thus up anyway, is paired with Republican David Johnson of old 3 on decidedly Republican turf. Kibbie supported the map in committee but is openly pessimistic about his own chances. But if the 82 year old Democrat retires, Johnson simply holds over without an election.

In new Senate 9, Republicans Nancy Boettger and James Seymour are paired. Boettger, who lives on a family farm, has said she won't move. She was just re-elected from old District 29. Seymour is in old District 28, on the presidential cycle. He was unopposed in 2008, when dirty laundry emerged late in the cycle. My bet is Seymour quietly doesn't run and Boettger holds the seat till 2014.

Senate 21, solidly Democratic, is resolved. Republican Pat Ward, last elected in old District 20 in 2008, has said she will move into the redder turf of open District 22. (This is one of those "my district, just not my house" things that Iowa's mapping process creates.) Democrat Matt McCoy, re-elected last year, will hold over till 2014.

Things are messier in new Senate 25, where Republicans Robert Bacon and Bill Dix are paired in a solid Republican district. Both just knocked off Democratic incumbents in 2010 in odd number districts, so one or the other could hold over. Dix is a fundraising powerhouse who came up short in the 2006 1st Congressional District primary. Unfortunately for him, his turf is part of that eastward extension of the new 4th CD.

Also unfortunately for the GOP, this is the same area where Annette Sweeney and Pat Grassley are doubled up in House 50. It's critical for the Republicans to resolve this and take care of Grassley the Younger, who has to land on his somewhere for the next four years until, as per the fiendish plan, he's old enough to replace Grandpa in the 2016 Senate race.

(I keep saying this. No one ever denies it.)

Is this the area where we see the fratricidal primaries? There's always one redistricting pair that a party just can't get worked out. (Last time, in 2002, it was a House race in Lee County between Democrats Phil Wise and Rick Larkin.)

Democrats Tom Hancock and Tod Bowman are paired in new Senate 29, but there are options. Bowman says he and Hancock are talking. Open new district 28, just to the north of Hancock's current seat, leans a little Republican and thus is less appealing. Bowman, just elected from old District 13, could move just a few miles closer to Flavor Flav's Fried Chicken into the open new Senate 49, the one odd Senate seat with no incumbent, and hold over. It's a bit less blue than the solidly Democratic new 29, but overlaps much of his old Clinton-based turf. Another "my district not my house" deal. Or if Hancock doesn't run, Bowman could stay put and hold over.

If Bowman does go south, Hancock could stay in new 29 and run for a two year term. Yes, it's odd-numbered, and yes, it would have one and only one incumbent senator, but Hancock was elected out of old district 16 in 2008. No one gets a six year term for free. It is, however, possible for a voter to go six years without seeing a state senator on the ballot, another argument for having the whole Senate run in remap years.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quiet On The Vilsack Front

Quiet On The Vilsack Front

Now that The Map is a de facto reality (Craig Robinson at TheIowaRepublican has a must read with numbers), the chess pieces are in full motion and the kings and queens on the board are the five Congressional incumbents and Christie Vilsack. Six pieces, four squares.

A Bleeding Heartland diary making the case for Christie Vilsack primarying Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD is getting some national play, which is only natural; a primary challenge is an interesting story. I can write the lede now: "President Obama forced to choose between one of his key early Iowa supporters and the wife of a cabinet member..."

In response, Trish Nelson at Blog For Iowa argues that instead of running in the 2nd, Christie should take on Steve King in the 4th.

I think in the end, both are wrong. Let's start with the 2nd District.

A primary challenge needs a compelling rationale. "It's my turn" doesn't cut it. The incumbent needs to be an issue. The argument is the incumbent isn't doing the job, is damaged by scandal or personal shortcoming, or (as in Fallon-Boswell) isn't representing the base.

Dave Loebsack doesn't have any of these weaknesses - a little grumbling from the anti-war left, perhaps, but not enough to build a primary challenge around (compared to Leonard Boswell's actual vote for the war). And Christie Vilsack has no peace purist bona fides for the Hey Hey Ho Ho crowd.

Loebsack staked his claim on the 2nd District almost immediately, hours after the map's release, and started scheduling events in his new counties. And Vilsack, despite rumors or plants that she's been "calling around," has been silent in response. It's been apparent since about day two that this was The Map, and if she were serious would she give Loebsack a head start?

Vilsack's Plan A was probably a compact Des Moines metro district, the kind we all draw in our imaginary maps and the Legislative Service Agency never submits. So if Plan B was running from Mt. Pleasant, is Plan C Steve King?

Not a smart plan.

Look, I know King is the Republican that Democrats love to hate. But challenging King is a fool's errand. There's just that many Republicans in that corner of the state. The electorate has become polarized to the point where someone like a Berkley Bedell, who won that area in the 70s and 80s, could no longer get elected.

Sure, it would make us feel good to have someone out there bashing King every day. We need a candidate who is at least credible, just to protect the integrity of the party line and hold the straight ticket vote. Old-timers will remember the embarrassment of the, um, eccentric Jan Zonneveld on the Democratic ticket against Jim Leach in 1992, simply because no one else filed. It hurt every Democrat the rest of the way down the ballot.

Maybe it would marginally help Democratic turnout if we can fool enough people into thinking Vilsack or someone like her has a chance. But we don't. It would have to be done with the understanding that no, you are not actually going to Congress next year, you are doing this as a favor to the party and the President. (And its a favor that might even backfire, if it motivates King's base.)

Christie Vilsack has enough name ID and credibility that a strong but unsuccessful bid against Steve King doesn't help -- it instead counts as an L in her column.

So my unrealistic hope is still a voluntary Boswell retirement and a Christie Vilsack run in the 3rd District.

My beef with Boswell has always been that he calls himself a Blue Dog and that Des Moines doesn't need a Blue Dog to hold the seat. Boswell has improved a bit since 2006, in part because of the four years with a Democratic majority and in part because of that primary challenge from the left in 2008. But he still ranks below Braley and Loebsack on most independent measures.

And the very existence of the Blue Dogs damages the Democratic brand with young progressive voters, who are just starting to settle into voting patterns that tend to last a lifetime. Our real competition for these folks isn't Republicans, it's protest votes and it's the apathy of "they all suck." Boswell, with his good ole boy demeanor and his despicable "Nader Nader Nader," no-debate primary campaign against Ed Fallon, is exactly the wrong image for those voters.

It's hard to gauge Christie Vilsack's issue and voting potential since she has no record as an elected official. But I doubt she'd get on board the sinking ship of the Blue Dogs.

The other argument to make against Boswell is age. Paradoxically, that would have been a better argument a few years ago when Boswell had health problems and attendance issues which seem to be resolved. Age is an ugly argument, and not necessarily an effective one in an aging state like Iowa.

Leonard Boswell staked his claim even more than Loebsack did, and Iowa Democrats refuse to encourage him to step down. It looks like what we expected - a Boswell-Latham showdown, albeit on different turf than we thought. I see Tom Latham, busy making friends with Dallas County realtors, winning that one. So Christie Vilsack's smart move may be keeping her powder dry till 2014, for this race or another.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bachmania! in Iowa City

Bachmania! in Iowa City

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann seemed to get the better of an exchange with some Iowa City lefty protesters this afternoon as she visited the People's Republic on the Family leader “Presidential Lecture” series. So Now we know why Bob Vader Plaats – my spell check wants to make it Vader which is too good to not use - is bringing Republican candidates to Iowa City: so they can look more reasonable in comparison?

Following: My usual UI campus, delayed first take look at the event.

A lack of plug-in electricity at the press riser and a dodgy battery has me isolated from the rest of the press, at the far left of the hall appropriately. Even my phone is dying. At least double the press presence as previous candidates or pseudo-candidates, at least 20.

Bachmann leads off with the press by discussing her “seven generation” Iowa bona fides. Seven generations... is that literally genealogically true, a Biblical dog whistle, or both? Twists the old book title into Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Iowa, then says she moved to Minnesota when she was 12. You write the punch line.

Two of the five or six questions we get tie in on Romney and his exploratory announcement. Bachmann declines a direct bash but notes “I don't like to see anything other than free market health care.” She also likes unrestricted buying across state lines (the least common denominator policy to me) and "true malpractice reform.” She also redirects the invitation to attack a Republican and bashes Obama instead.

Two other questions key to the Paul Ryan budget proposal which she calls “an aspirational document, not legislation.” When asked what we should do to get serious about the deficit, she says “defund Obamacare” three or four times. That and waste. Calls Ryan proposal “the 55 and under plan” without saying “privatize Social Security.” (Note: Bachmann herself just turned 55.)

As for her budget vision: She wants “a family budget. The government needs less so families can have more.”

My intended question is about her vision: is there a place in it for the non-straight, the non-Christian, the non-wealthy? But with so many cameras and mikes, a blogger in a beret doesn't get a turn. I'm thinking of killing the hat off for just such reasons. Indeed, a young scruffy guy with a sign asks me if there are any protesters. Me, of course; another reason to bag the beret. I suggest keeping the sign on the down low and wish him luck. But that's not my approach. I just want to hear what they have to say.

We must be at 150 bodies at 5:26. A few Democratic interlopers, but most are polite types like me. The organizing types seem to be wise to protesters. Seems like Ron Paul had more people, but it may just have been the different room. Again, the press at least seems more interested in Bachmann.

BVP starts the show right on time. BVP is against raising debt ceiling, “that's just increasing the national credit card.” Brian Round from NOM is also in the house.

Bachmann intro cites Matthew 7: by their fruits shall ye know them.” And “she's made all the right enemies” (zero scores from NEA, ACLU, ADA, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL...) Keeps citing her “ten years” or legislative experience, counting both state legislature and US House, boosting her credentials with the unstated comparison to Obama. Oh, and she's never missed a congressional prayer meeting.

5:36 and she's on. Again with the Iowa bona fides, using the word “Iowegian,” only without the accent. (I just spent the weekend in my native Wisconsin and I catch myself lapsing into it after just two days' direct exposure.) Lengthy story about immigrant ancestors, with the “seven generations” again.

“We were reasonable fair minded Democrats in my family. It's not so much whether you're a Democrat or Republican, it's about your world view.” Just a hint of the accent on “cup of coffee today.” and “Winona State”

“I saw up close and personal how devastating hight taxes are. They destroy people's lives.” (So farmers ONLY lose farms due to taxes, NOT due to bad crops or bad economy?) “Nobody has a chance against this tax code, and we can afford a bureaucrat to spend his career interpreting a 14 word section of a 3.8 million word tax code.”

Family ran “a Christian counseling clinic.” This background is Important To The Story for the Right To Life (sic) people, in sort of the way that Trig Palin is. “It's not easy to run a business turn a profit and not have it go under.”

“Even if a life is less than perfect, they deserve protection (applause). And that's not to condemn abortion-minded women in a tough situation, but there's a chance of a far better outcome.” Abortion-minded women?

“We wanted to do more than talk the pro-life talk, we wanted to walk the walk.”

Marriage: “Marriage has been under attack for many years. History tells us that in all of human society, there is no culture, there is no nation... you don't see any other standard or definition of marriage other than between a man and a woman until about 12 years ago. That has been the norm. For 5000 years there has been a standard, and now you're deviating from that standard.”

Someone shouts, I can't tell what. Someone shouts again. Bachmann continues. “Social conservatism IS fiscal conservatism. You can't separate it.”

Now with the “three legged stool” she's mentioned on the stump: Uphold marriage, life and family. Strong vibrant economy. Strong national security. “It was a mistake for our president to get us involved in a third war in the Middle East.”

Another shout, the fifth or so. Bachmann responds: “if you'd like to ask a question later, I'd be more than happy to answer (applause drowms out some, ending with...) rules of decorum.” Back to Libya, seems her concern is Al-Qaida will take over post-Khadaffgffy. “They (Obama administration) don't know who's on first or what's on second.”

Mubarak “wasn't perfect but he was one of our few friends in the middle east, and where was Obama then? This is extremely destabilizing for the middle east. We could see a rise in democracy, but easily this could go the other way.”

Iran's goal “is to destroy Israel, and then to destroy the United States Of America.” Oh, and gas prices are Obama's fault. “We've been debasing the currency through the federal reserve.”

“You could be looking at 75% of your income being taken just for the tax burden.”

The Scruffy Guy With A Sign who talked to me earlier walks purposefully across back of the hall; heads turned. I'm told the sign says “I'm better at what I do because I'm gay.”

“The greatest threat to our national security is not Iran or Libya, it's our national debt.”

6:00 Q and A. They call on a protester, she asks, trying to squeeze it all in, about rape victims in war, assorted aspects of foreign policy and ending with “How much oil do you want?”

“I don't want the oil coming from the middle east, I want it coming from the United States. (applause)” “We are not seeing the progress we would like to see in Afghanistan” “In Iraq and Afghanistan we learned lessons that should have kept us out of Libya.” Thus playing her own disagreement with Obama, for opposite reasons, against the protesters.

“The US is the number one energy resource country in the world. This is great news. The problem is government policy.” Lists off many energy sources and many offshore locations, avoids term Drill Baby Drill. Lots of applause

BVP: “Emma from Mt Vernon followed the rules and wrote down a question” about illegal immigration. MB: “Enforce the laws on the books.” Shouting follows after she drops the name “Steve King.” Cites the Israeli Wall as a good example (!) “The way you do it is a double wall with about 100 feet in between for vehicles.” Step up enforcement “so that welfare benefits are not going to illegals.” Applause. “We have so many Hispanic Americans who are great citizens. I would encourage setting up chambers of commerce in any minority community where we haven't seen the same level of economic aspirations.” “They WILL learn to speak English” gets an applause interruption.

Varnum-Brien and DADT (the catch-all Gay question). “That decision belongs to the people of the state, it is not up to black robed masters. That is not the purpose of a court to impose their morality on all of us.” DADT was a policy the military was happy with, no “social engineering” in national security. “It worked and that's what we should stay with.”

Q & A cuts off early because she's going on Hannity. More shouting. She's out, crowd quickly starts to disperse.

I'll give her credit for taking on the protesters, even if she mostly just stayed on script; I have vivid memories of Palin just plowing ahead as if they weren't even there. Sorry for the too obvious comparisons to Palin, but it begs itself.

The take away: Someone has to emerge as the Not Mitt, and I give her a better chance than most. She fills the Palin Niche and the Huckabee Niche, without the Newt Baggage or the Pawlenty Boredom. Certainly a better chance than the next guy Vander Plaats has on deck: Rick Santorum on May 2nd.

Iowa Could Be First With Map

Iowa Could Be First With Map

The Legislature could vote on the redistricting map as soon as this Thursday. Swing State Project links to this Register piece and notes: "All signs point to passage, which would make Iowa the first state in the nation to complete its redistricting process."

The Register piece looks at several specific districts, including the Battle of the Dutchmen in the Pella-Osky pair:
Vander Linden and Van Engelenhoven are cousins. "That would literally be a family feud, so I don't know," Vander Linden said, referring to a primary battle. Some Republicans hope one would instead challenge Rielly for the Senate seat.
Many other specifics so check the whole thing out.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Last Redistricting Hearing Done

Last Redistricting Hearing Done

Only a dozen folks last night in Des Moines. Perennial candidate Jeremy Walters (R) complains, but since he's lost in about three different districts he should be OK.

Dennis Black has noted that his is one of the two Senate districts that's split between congressional districts (because 50 doesn't divide by four). I've found the other: the pair of Republican Merlin Bartz and Democrat Mary Jo Wilhelm in District 26 on the Minnesota Border.

A WTF comment at the Cedar Rapids hearing:
Carmen Halverson of Cedar Falls and others had more local concerns about House and Senate districts having jagged boundaries that make it hard for voters and campaign workers to know which district they're located.

Halverson pointed to House District 62, near Raymond, as one example. She'd like a smoother, easier to understand boundary line.

"It looks as though it's a toothbrush," she said.
That's Deborah Berry's... looks to me like most of the lines are city limits and the Cedar River.

In Plymouth County, they're looking ahead to county redistricting:
Le Mars residents Ralph Klemme, representing the Republican party, and Dennis Wolf, the Democratic party, along with Supervisor Jack E. Guenthner will serve on the committee.
Again referring to "Plymouth County Democrat" in the singular, though this is a different one Democrat than they names last time.

And in that inadvertend argument for consolidating counties, double-size Kossuth, they appear to think McKinley Bailey got re-elected.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Daily Mapper

The Daily Mapper

Yeah, I know there's a lot going on: the possible shutdown, the caucus date fight, the impending invaion of Michele Bachmann, winning in Wisconsin... but one of my journalistic mantras is "if you can't find the story you want to read, write it." And I want to read All Map All The Time.

Swing State Project has Best. Analogy. Ever.:
The situation here reminds me of gym class in middle school. Our stereotypically sadistic teacher would ask us if we wanted to play, say, basketball - and we had to either accept the choice right there, or decide to risk taking door #2, with no chance of going back. The alternative could be dodgeball (yes!)... or it could be running laps. Faced with the possibility of doing suicide drills (that is to say, a much worse second map from the commission), Republicans and Democrats alike seem ready to play a little b-ball instead.
Some grumbling at the Cedar Rapids public hearing about the Johnson-Linn split. As I've noted, historically those two were split from just after statehood till the 1991 map. And from my own archives, December 2008: "The last time Black Hawk and Linn counties were in the same congressional district was back when we had two districts-—at statehood."

Civic Skinny has the first localized Polk County look:
The map carves out a new Senate district that House Democrat Janet Peterson could win pretty easily, if she wanted it. Republican Pete Cownie, who keeps his safe House seat, is hemmed in a bit because the newly redrawn senate district where he lives would be hard for him to win.

It’s notable that while statewide there are 13 new districts that would pit incumbents against one another — nine where Republicans would face one another, three with Democrat against Democrat and one where an incumbent Democrat would face an incumbent Republican — no Polk County House members would face one another. In that sense, all members of the entire Polk County House delegation are winners.
That's what population gain gets you.

On Radio Iowa, Grassley advises Grassley:
“Pat’s gotta’ make up his mind what he wants to do,” Grassley says. “I always advise people that if you would like to stay in politics, you oughta’ take on any challenges that come to you. You’ve gotta’ be the right person at the right time at the right place and if you leave politics, it’s a little harder to get back in.”

Under the proposed new legislative maps, Pat Grassley would be in the same district with Representative Annette Sweeney, a Republican from Alden. The elder Grassley says his grandson will make the choice that’s best for himself and his family. “He is pondering whether or not he ought to go into a primary but I believe that he’s determined to do it, based on his own judgment, not mine,” Grassley says. “I just give peripheral advice.”
At the Ottumwa legislative forum last weekend, the talking was mostly unofficial (what I call "beret off").
A crowd gathered around the map, and before and after the forum, the hottest topic seemed to be the change in Iowa’s political districts. During the forum itself, it never came up.

Instead, the four lawmakers — two Republicans and two Democrats — talked about the approaching end of the legislative session during the forum, hosted by the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce and the Ottumwa chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Sen. Sandra Greiner, R-Keota, said because of an unusual situation in Des Moines, there are some things the four speakers wouldn’t have control over.

“There isn’t one of us on this panel who is in the majority in their chamber,” she said.
Brief mention in Fayette of the two Dem Andrew Wenthe-Roger Thomas pair. And in Spencer, Senate Dem Jack Kibbie is down on his own chances.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Pawlenty was Born This Way

Are they just Born This Way?

Hip is not something you can fake. You either have it or you don't. And trying to fake it and failing is simply pitiful.

Thus we saw Tim Pawlenty last weekend at the Iowa College Republicans, awkwardly dropping the pop culture references his staffers fed him: “If this was a Lady Gaga song, the relationship between the youth vote and Barack Obama would be ‘Bad Romance.’”

"I'm a free bitch, baby," responded Sarah Palin via Twitter.*

C'mon, TPaw. You REALLY wanna go there? Have you ever actually LISTENED to Lady Gaga? Like that hit that just wrapped up six weeks at number one:

Don't be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you're broke or evergreen
You're black, white, beige, chola descent
You're lebanese, you're orient
Whether life's disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
'Cause baby you were born this way
No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life
I'm on the right track baby
I was born to survive

Not exactly the artist you want to be invoking in an Iowa Republican caucus without clearing it with Bob Vander Plaats first. You need more born again, less "Born This Way."

The guy who gets this is Mike Huckabee. The way a Republican candidate needs to deal with pop culture is the full Murphy Brown:
One of the things that's troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, 'Hey look, you know, we're having children, we're not married, but we're having these children, and they're doing just fine.' But there aren't really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie.
Straight from the Dan Quayle script.

Preachy? Sure. Preaching to the base. The people you need to get to a Republican caucus either doesn't know who Lady Gaga is, knows her only as "the crazy lady in the meat dress," or if they DO know anything about her through accidental osmosis from their teenagers, they're offended. (Her next single, due out April 19, is titled "Judas.")

The only good thing for Pawlenty is that the reference doesn't seem to have come to Lady Gaga's attention. You don't want to piss off a woman who speaks her mind and has nine million Twitter followers. (Obama's only got seven million. You, TPaw, have 29,000.)

Still, it's not the worst thing that's happened to TPaw in Iowa this week. And it's not the most pitiful attempt by a Republican candidate to look cool:

But Mitt can't help it. He was born this way. **

* for the unhip: that's a lyrical reference.

** for the unhip: that's a lyrical reference.

Map Day 7: No Screaming

Map Day 7: No Screaming

Get to know it, learn to love it. Mike Glover:
Key legislative leaders from both parties said Tuesday that they were leaning toward approval of the first plan to redraw Iowa's congressional and legislative districts.

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, told The Associated Press that the map put together by nonpartisan legislative staffers hasn't garnered strong opposition from lawmakers.

Paulsen also said that since the maps were unveiled last week, there has been no organized opposition, and McCarthy said he hasn't heard from any Democrats strongly opposed to the plan.

While neither Paulsen nor McCarthy announced a final decision, their support gives the proposed map a giant boost.
Second public hearing, in Bettendorf, was extremely low key:
Only about 30 people attended a meeting Tuesday night to discuss Iowa's redistricting plan, and some who did concluded the low turnout was a sign the proposed maps are relatively popular.

"Look around the room," Art Heyderman said. "They're not here. They're not angry. Happy people stay home."
Indeed, the biggest complaint anyone could muster was that the St. Ambrose campus is split between legislative districts. Not exactly a deal-breaker.

Another sign of acceptance: At semi-official house organ TheIowaRepublican, Craig Robinson does serious number crunching of party reg in the new districts. Doesn't share the raw data, but a lot of interesting examples for any political numbers geek, which if you're reading me, you are.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Sweeney-Grassley Problem

The Sweeney-Grassley Problem

Kevin Hall at TheIowaRepublican:
I’m hearing the first set of redistricting plans is likely to pass, despite pitting several incumbent Republicans against each other. I would be stunned if there is a Latham vs. King primary. Most of the matchups will work themselves out, through retirements, moves, or rock, paper, scissors. The most difficult one? Annette Sweeney vs. Pat Grassley in the House. In the Senate, I’m curious to see what happens between Jim Seymour and Nancy Boettger. All great people and great legislators (sic). It would be a shame to lose any of them (sic).
Bleeding Heartland has more on last night's Council Bluffs hearing. Note: "We want to be in Steve King's (or whoever's) district" is EXACTLY the kind of thing the Iowa process is designed to NOT consider.

A new catch from Saturday's Muscatine legislative forum: Senator Jim Hahn is a no vote. Is it because he gets paired with fellow Republican Shawn Hamerlinck (Davenport), or because he loses his piece of Johnson County? I'm thinking Jim luuuuuuvs the People's Republic and just hates losing the Scott Boulevard trailer courts. [/snark]

More local roundups: Independence, Toledo, Knoxville, Boone and Estherville.

Another Day, AnotherMap Roundup

Another Day, Another Map Roundup

First public hearing last night in Council Bluffs, with some grumbling from PottCo GOP. tl;dr version: we want to be in King's district. Other complaints: The Central Iowa Coalition Conspiracy. (At this point in 2001 Map One the phrase was "urban-rural mix.") Quote of the night: “If Mike Gronstal is in favor of this, that’s all I need to know. I cannot support this.”

But that's 30 party activists who went to a meeting. What's REALLY happening? Politico:
But privately, some top Republican officials say legislators are increasingly heading toward a grudging acceptance of the congressional plan because they don’t want to roll the dice on a plan that could end up with much less favorable state legislative district maps.
Also talk in the Politico article of Christie Vilsack running in the 4th.

And yesterday afternoon, a fundraising email from Gronstal began with this very presumptive sentence: "Late last week, the new map of Iowa legislative districts was made public, and with that, the 2012 Election Cycle is underway."

Some local stories from mid-sized papers: The Marshalltown Times-Republican mentions that Lance Horbach is retiring and the Sweeney-Grassley pair. So many papers have "Democrat" or "Republican" in their name, a holdover from the old days of the partisan press that I firmly believe will return as journalism moves from an advertiser supported model to an interest group supported model. [/tangent]

Also checking in: Carroll, Ft. Dodge (Tjepkes predicting passage, Beall predicting failure), Newton (Black noting that his is one of the two Senate districts split between congressional districts because 50/4 = 12 1/2) and Denison. Wednesday and Thursday tend to be publication days for the small town weeklies, and I'll be matching for those to see how some of those rural pairs shake out.